2017 is the year of the banjo at the Illawarra Folk Festival! We’re planning banjo workshops at the Folk School, special concerts and we have a swag of superb banjo wielding musicians from around the country and the globe ready to entertain and delight you with their chordophonial cacophonies!
The banjo is a four, five or (occasionally) six-stringed instrument with a thin membrane stretched over a frame or cavity as a resonator, called the head. The membrane, or head, is typically made of plastic, although animal skin is still occasionally but rarely used, and the frame is typically circular. The banjo is quite often associated with country, folk, Irish traditional and bluegrass music.
Historically, the banjo occupied a central place in African American traditional music, before becoming popular in the minstrel shows of the 19th century. The banjo, with the fiddle, is a mainstay of American old-time music. It is also very frequently used in Traditional ("Trad") Jazz.
Some banjos have a separate resonator plate on the back of the pot to project the sound forward and give the instrument more volume. This type of banjo is usually used in bluegrass music, though resonator banjos are played by players of all styles, and are also used in old-time music, sometimes as a substitute for electric amplification when playing in large venues. Open-back banjos generally have a mellower tone and weigh less than resonator banjos and usually have a different setup, often with a higher string action.
The modern banjo comes in a variety of forms and includes tenor banjo, cello banjo, bass and contrabass banjo, banjo mandolin, banjo ukulele and the 6 string banjo guitar.